Open Letter to Dr. R. Scott Clark

bare knuckle sullivanNobody likes a bully, and, I confess, I was going to leave my comments (below) on Dr. R. Scott Clark’s blog and be done with it.  However, I am sick and tired of self-styled defenders of the Reformed confessionalism who are so ignorant of traditional historic Calvinism that they can’t even bear to defend their position according to the confessions they claim to revere or the Scriptures that inspire those confessions.  Instead, Clark routinely resorts to name calling when dealing with those he disagrees, even attacking them as “rationalists” and “hyper-Calvinists,” and, when pressed, claims his opponents have not taken the time to read and consider his arguments when nothing could be further from the truth.

Recently, Clark responded to a comment I made to one of his blog posts, “Hyper-Calvinism, Rationalism, and Anti-Predestinarians,” where he argues that opposition to the so-called “well meant” or “free offer” of the Gospel where God is said to desire and not desire the salvation of all men, is contrary to Reformed confessionalism and history.  Clark complains:

 Sean,

You’re entitled to criticize Murray’s exegesis but you’re not entitled to your own history, facts, and logic.

The historical evidence for the doctrine of the “free offer” is overwhelming. I’m surprised that you would make such a claim. Have you actually read what I’ve written? I guess not. You’ve certainly removed any incentive I might have to take you seriously.

Besides being horribly condescending and dismissive, Clark’s reply is incredible in light of a legitimate challenge that instead of just his usual name calling, Clark actually defend the so-called “free offer” exegetically and in light of the historic Reformed exegetical tradition that stands against him. I thought this would be a relatively small task for a Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California. I guess not.

Beyond that, his reply is simply dishonest.  Not only have I read and carefully considered his historical evidence so-called, but I have responded to his arguments at length in “Janus Alive and Well: Dr. R. Scott Clark and the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel” published by the Trinity Foundation.

I have to wonder why Scott Clark is so afraid of the Reformed tradition that stands in opposition to the irrationality of the WMO (which is just warmed over Arminianism) that he can’t bear getting his hands dirty doing some real exegesis?

And, finally, I must say his remarks above cut both ways and I’m starting to wonder why I bother to take him seriously.  But, while I still do, here is my letter and challenge to Dr. Clark that I posted on his blog with only slight modification:

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hi Scott. Just so you can avoid future crass generalizations and so you might stop acting like some Don Quixote defending some mythical “Reformed tradition” that never existed, predestinarians like me do not deny the “free offer” due to “some form of rationalism,” but rather because there are no passages in Scripture that support your claim that God desires the salvation of all men. This is why Bob Suden remarked on another of your blog posts:

The Well Meant Offer? Murray’s take on his proof texts doesn’t seem to quite follow the historical reformed trajectory. 2 Pet. 3:9 has a universal referent instead of pointing to the elect? Are we sure about that?

I mean, really, Murray’s handling of this passage is atrocious and flies in the face the well established historic Reformed exegetical position. The point is for many of us who you call “rationalists,” we reject the so-called “well-meant-offer” not primarily because it is contradictory (it is) and imputes irrationality to God (it does), but because of consistent historic Reformed exegesis of critical passages like 2 Peter 3:9.

For example, concerning this passage, and after an extended and detailed argument, John Owen in his The Death of Death in the Death of Christ concludes: “The text is clear, that it is all and only the elect whom he would not have to perish.”  

Go back and read his argument and you’ll see how badly Murray and Stonehouse mishandled this verse.

Gordon Clark argues similarly when he writes in his commentary on First and Second Peter in New Heavens, New Earth:

Since God has made and appointed the wicked for the day of evil, as in 2:3,4 have already said, as 2:9 virtually implies, and as is distinctly stated in Romans 9:17-22, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, or as Proverbs 16:4 says, ” The Lord has made everything for its own end, yea even the wicked for the day of evil,” it follows that God does not will the salvation of every member of the human race. It is not his will that every man without exception should repent. Repentance is a gift of God, and if God willed to, he would give everyone repentance. But obviously he does not. So much for the Scripture in general.

The verse 3:9 would make no sense otherwise. Peter is telling us that Christ’s return awaits the repentance of certain people. Now, if Christ’s return awaited the repentance of every individual without exception, Christ would never return. Already many have died unrepentant, and their number grows larger every day. The only time when every individual had come to repentance was when Adam and Eve repented and were clothed with skins. The Arminians, unwittingly to be sure, imply that Christ should have returned them — his second advent antedating his first.

This is no new interpretation. The Similitudes viii,xi, 1 in the Shepherd of Hermas ( c. A.D. 130-150 ), which because of the date serves as evidence for the epistle’s authenticity, says” “But the Lord, being long-suffering, wishes [ thelei] those who were called [ ten klesin ten genomenen ] through his Son to be saved.” This quotation shows how the verse was understood in the second century. It is the called or elect whom God wills to save.

Peter therefore is saying simply that Christ will not return until everyone of the elect has come to repentance. Or, as the hymn writer said:

Ten thousand times ten thousand
In sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints
Throng up the steeps of light.
Bring near thy great salvation,
Thou Lamb for sinners slain;
Fill up the roll of thine elect.
Then take thy power and reign.

Besides not being very Christian in the way you deal with brothers who disagree with you on this point, even attacking them as “hyper-Calvinists,” there is nothing in any of the Reformed confessions that support your view of the offer.

For example, you cite Cannons of Dort 2.5, but there is nothing there that I, nor any predestinarian like me, could not confess wholeheartedly and without the slightest reservation. The Gospel should be preached to all men promiscuously and without distinction. God does command all who hear the Gospel to repent and believe. The problem is your conclusion (God desires the salvation of all men) does not follow from your major premise (God commands all who hear the Gospel to repent and believe) and the reason is simple; you cannot infer anything in the indicative from something written in the imperative.

Luther, whom I suppose you think is a rationalist too, excoriated Erasmus for making this same juvenile error in The Bondage of the Will, writing:

Even grammarians and schoolboy at street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood that what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by verbs in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning?

I understand your unhappiness with Baptist historian William Estep, but what about the hundreds and perhaps thousands of students you have misled about the true nature of Calvinism.

So, Scott, why don’t you man up and stop with all the name calling and vitriol and defend your “free offer” exegetically? Why don’t you go toe to toe with the great Reformed exegetes in the past who have rejected the lazy (mis)handling of verses like 2 Peter 3:9 and stop acting like a theocratic bully.

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83 Comments on “Open Letter to Dr. R. Scott Clark”

  1. Ron Says:

    What does it mean when a Calvinist says that God desires the salvation of the non-elect? Are we to believe that God desires men to regenerate and unite themselves to Christ? That’s what Arminians believe – that regeneration follows self-willed saving faith. The Calvinist who wants to argue for the free-offer should do so not like the Arminian but rather by arguing that God desires that He Himself would sovereignly regenerate the “reprobate” unto union with Christ and salvation. The question for the Calvinist is not whether God desires the reprobate to turn and live (Arminianism) but whether God desires to turn the reprobate so that he can live. I think the error of the free-offer should become clearer to the Calvinist when cast in that light. Cast in the light of “salvation is of God” – is it reasonable to think that the Holy Spirit desires to turn the reprobate toward himself when the Father did not choose the reprobate in Christ? Moreover, Christ did not die for the reprobate, let alone does he pray that the efficacy of the cross would be applied to the reprobate. Consequently, it is not available for the Holy Spirit to unite the reprobate to the finished work of Christ, lest the Trinity works at cross purposes.

    In a word, not only can God not save the reprobate. 2000 years ago He punctuated that inability. For God to desire the salvation of the reprobate is to say that God – today – desires that Jesus would have died for the reprobate 2000 years ago. What can God desire in this regard other than the past be different? Does God live with any sense of regret?

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    FWIW it seems Scott has barred me from now commenting on his blog.

    Why are professors like Clark such snowflakes?

    Is their theological assumptions really so weak that they can’t handle the slightest friction?

    For example, he welcomes a comment by some OPC guy named Jack Miller quoting Calvin on 2 Peter 3:6, but removes my follow up quote from R.C. Sproul that Hugh found on the same verse. Here’s the Sproul quote that Scott removed that I posted without comment:

    Many have used 3:9 as a proof text against the Reformed doctrine of predestination. How can God predestine only some to eternal life, it is said, if He does not desire that any should perish? Let us note, however, that Peter is not speaking to all people in general in this verse. He is addressing an audience of believers, telling them that the Lord is patient with “you” (the believing audience) and not willing that anyone in this audience should perish but instead find repentance. Far from denying that God elects only some to eternal life, this verse tells us that God has seemed to delay the parousia (the return of Christ) in order that His people might repent before it is too late.

    Instead of being an evidence against Jesus’ return, what might seem to be a delay of the parousia actually demonstrates God’s mercy. God does not wish that any of His people should fail to repent; thus, we know that Jesus will not return until all the elect are gathered in.

    I mean, really, R.C. Sproul is now banned on Scott Clark’s blog!

    Here is my plea to Scott:

    What? The RC Sproul quote I posted wasn’t helpful Scott?

    It’s funny, the quote you think is helpful is pre-Dort and is routinely used by neo-Amyraldians like David Ponter to claim Calvin held to universal atonement. Not one of Calvin’s best work, but then he had bigger fish to fry and making an error in one of his countless volumes is forgivable.

    What exactly are you afraid of Scott? Last I checked Sproul was a pretty competent scholar, some might say even more qualified than you.

    While my comment is currently in “moderation,” I’m confident that it too will be deleted.

    Regardless, the problem with men like Scott is that they think because they’re currently in the majority that noisy little gnats like me will simply go away. Sort of the way almost all Vantillians act when confronted by “Clarkians” willing to challenge the abject skepticism of their anti-biblical and anti-confessional epistemology.

    What men like Scott Clark fail to grasp is that we’re not going away and in fact our numbers are growing and soon, God willing, these neo-Calvinists (which are just confused Arminians anyway) will once again be the minority. Or, at least they’ll stop calling themselves Calvinists.

  3. Ron Says:

    Hi Sean,

    I posted the exact post with the addition of this at the end:

    It’s not rationalistic (but it is rational) to abandon a theological viewpoint when it undermines cardinal tenets of one’s theology – as does the free-offer as it stands in relationship to the soteriology of Calvinism and the internal consistency and coherence of the Godhead. No amount of mystery can resolve a blatant contradiction.

  4. Ron Says:

    It’s interesting that on a follow-up post Dr. Clark wrote:

    Rather, when our theologians spoke of the “evangellium oblatum,” i.e., “gospel offered” in preaching, they believed that it entailed a well and sincerely meant revealed divine intention that whoever believes should be saved.

    I think the target just moved. Certainly no Reformed person who denies the free-offer would take issue with the sincerity of “whoever believes should be saved.” The point of contention is whether God desires salvation for those not elected unto salvation (and not whether God desires salvation for all who believe).

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    Actually, IMO the moving target is either intentional (which means it is intentionally deceptive and speaks to the man’s character) or it is the product of a contradictory theology resting on an epistemology of paradox where its proponents are intellectually incapable of making the kind of distinctions you’re making. This is also why I’ve always thought the WMO is about so much more than just God’s imagined desire for the salvation of those He wills not to save.

    In Scott’s case I prefer to think of it in terms of the latter which is why he can cite the Canons of Dort 2:5 thinking it is an affirmation of the WMO. It boggles the mind. Any mention of the general call automatically becomes affirmation of their doctrine.

    Actually, that was the central fault of Scott’s piece, “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” as he reads history and everything else through the lens Murray provided in his anemic defense of the “free offer.” Even the most seemingly irrelevant passages of Scripture magically become proof-texts for the WMO and Scott offers up assertions without the slightest argument to support his conclusions. His conclusions are just assumed. I think he’s been preaching to the choir and rooms full of submissive and subservient WSC students for so long that he can’t see anything except through his stained sunglasses. He complains that his opponents haven’t read and carefully considered what he’s written, when the fact is he just systematically ignores any arguments that undermines his own.

    For example, unless I’ve missed it I can’t find your comments above anywhere on his blog. Aren’t you an elder in the Church? I understand why he would just ignore me, but shouldn’t he at least feel some obligation, at least morally, to at least pretend to listen to you?

  6. justbybelief Says:

    Sean,

    I’m not saying anything you don’t already know…

    What men like Scott Clark fail to grasp is that we’re not going away and in fact our numbers are growing and soon…

    We’ll be vindicated by God either here or in the next life.

    Eric

  7. Ron Says:

    He opted not to publish but rather email me. So I posted on my site. *shrug*

  8. JRS Says:

    “Paradox” “Mystery” … poor theological spackling paste (it seems to cover for a while, but the cracks keep coming back).

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Ron. Interesting, I was reading through an old blog post and your exchange with Scott regarding Gaffin. I was struck when Scott wrote: “Murray could and did err.” Nice to see he could at admit it.

  10. Ron Says:

    Yes, and on that one Scott never read the article, he only read the title of Murray’s article. The problem with Scott is that he plays pin the tale on the donkey too much. He wanted to blame the entire FV on Murray. It’s just not that easy. :) What’s amazing to me is he bought into mystery = logical contradiction.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    What’s amazing to me is he bought into mystery = logical contradiction.

    Why? That’s Vantilianism 101. Perhaps you also noticed that in Scott’s work the embracing of two sides of a contradiction is really the mark of Reformed piety. It’s what Frame calls “thinking in submission to Scripture.” And, don’t we all want our thinking to be in submission to Scripture?

    What’s worse, and as I tried to point out to Scott, the contradiction he sees in the WMO turns out to be no contradiction at all after a little careful exegesis of critical passages like 2 Peter 3:9.

    Frankly, I come from an Arminian background which was my first real exposure to Christianity. So when I came to the Reformed faith, primarily through some annoying Calvinists and Clark’s “Predestination” more than two decades ago, the first order of business, and before I threw my bible in the trash for being contradictory self-refuting nonsense, was to see how the Reformed handled the so-called “Arminian” passages of Scripture. What I learned is that there are no Arminian passages and all those passages that seemed to teach a universal desire on the part of God for the salvation of all men turned out not to be saying that at all; similar to what I found concerning 2 Peter 3:9.

    Thankfully, I first read men like John Owen instead of John Murray or my bible would be long lost in the city dump by now.

    Consequently, any seeming contradictions with Reformed soteriology vanished. That’s why I was shocked as a fledgling Calvinist to learn early on that there was a majority school who not only recognized the blatant contradiction in their doctrines, but even embraced them as an act of piety. Of course, they would not admit they believed in contradictions, but instead renamed them as “apparent contradictions” claiming in the most reverent tones; “the contradictions must remain for us, but for God there are no contradictions.”

    What a load of hooey. I mean, can there be any wonder why the Reformed faith inhabits the backwaters of wider “Evangelicalism.” It’s just so sickly and anemic. I’m not saying that every problem of Scripture is solved, but in the case of the WMO it just blows my mind that any sane person would reject the solution that is so bloody simply and prefer to wallow in the “mystery of paradox” instead.

  12. Steve M Says:

    Sean,
    I believe that those who wish to escape from reason do so in order to avoid truth. When reason would force them to arrive at a conclusion they do not like, it must be abandoned. A God who does not love everyone is not the God these men want to worship. A God who has from all eternity chosen those he will save and those he will reprobate based solely upon his own good pleasure is not a God they like much. This God seems so unfair to their way of thinking, that there must be some totally unrevealed reason why what Scripture presents is not what it seems to be.

    It seems to me there are a lot of church goers who do not much like the God of Scripture, so they must invent one they find more palatable. To do this requires exalting irrationality if one claims to believe that the Bible is the word of God.

  13. Ron Says:

    I think it’s just a lack of understanding with Scott. I’ve seen this sort of thing before, like when he once asserted that there is no “before” the decree(logically speaking) in Calvinism. However, that suggests that God’s decree did not logically follow what he knew was available for him to decree. Then there was

  14. Ron Says:

    … the time when he conflated Middle Knowledge and Molinism with Open Theism.

  15. Steve M Says:

    Ron
    I don’t know Scott. I was not making a personal accusation. I was opining generally about those who must have a Bible full of antinomies, paradoxes and mysteries.

    For example, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility present no paradox unless one adds the notion that God ought not to both foreordain man’s actions and hold him responsible. It is that notion, which is not derived from Scripture, that forces some to declare Scripture paradoxical. A God who does both these things appears to them to be evil unless there is some secret reason by which he can be vindicated.

    The God I worship both foreordains men’s actions and holds them accountable and appears to me to be perfectly righteous in doing so, because I don’t hold to the notion that it would be wrong for him to do so. Therefore I see no paradox in the two Scriptural revelations.

  16. justbybelief Says:

    “I believe that those who wish to escape from reason do so in order to avoid truth.”

    A simply devastating statement against the irrationalists, Steve.

    When reason would force them to arrive at a conclusion they do not like, it must be abandoned. A God who does not love everyone is not the God these men want to worship. A God who has from all eternity chosen those he will save and those he will reprobate based solely upon his own good pleasure is not a God they like much.

    I would go so far as to say that they not only dislike this God of the Bible, they hate Him.

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    I wouldn’t go that far by any means. Frankly, I’m very thankful that Scott has been consistent in his defense of the doctrines of JBFA and imputation against the FV men. There is a lot I admire about Scott, but I think his defense of the WMO is just not one of them.

  18. justbybelief Says:

    Ron,

    I think it’s just a lack of understanding with Scott

    Isn’t this a seminary professor in Reformed Seminary? Shouldn’t people of this position know better?

    Although, knowing one of R.S. Clark’s old pastors it not surprising that he ends up where he does.

    Eric

  19. justbybelief Says:

    Sean,

    I’m very thankful that Scott has been consistent in his defense of the doctrines of JBFA and imputation against the FV men.

    I don’t know Scott from these perspectives; only that the staff at WSC is excellent on JBFA and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, especially Mike Horton. And, with Steve I wasn’t making an accusation about R.S.C. That said, I lament finding out that one of my ‘heroes’ is a Van Tillian and embraces paradox. If one doesn’t understand God’s absolute predestination can they rightly understand everything that stems from that?

    Eric

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think we’re all a mixed bags Eric and all have our blind spots. GHC used to lament his own blind spots. He said he didn’t know what they were, but that’s why they were blind spots ;)

    Have a great New Year.

  21. Steve M Says:

    Sean,
    I know I have my own blind spots, but I believe that if I am to eliminate them it will be by applying logic to Scripture not by declaring all teaching of Scripture to be paradoxical.

  22. Ron Says:

    Justbybelief,

    Yes, RSC should know better since he fancies himself a teacher of theology. Unfortunately, he too often demonstrates that he doesn’t understand things he wants to talk about. Even so, it’s impossible for me to judge whether he wants to avoid truth. The judgment of charity requires that we not assume he hates God.

    Sean considers me a Van Tillian; yet I’m not sure I qualify as one. I affirm antithesis (e.g. in principle, i.e. not formally, the unbeliever and the faithful believer have no agreement because the latter presupposes Scripture as his justification for all knowledge). Also, I think it’s a profound insight that to argue against God one must first presuppose that which only God affords. Is that sufficient to make me Van Tillian, especially in light of my vehement opposition to the traditional Van Tillian understanding of paradox and analogy? I say that to say this. Maybe don’t let Van Til be your hero!

  23. Ron Says:

    oops – I misread – Van Til is not one of your heros. Just apply my advice to your high view of RSC.

  24. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hear, hear, ya’ll!

    Steve & Sean, And if I proclaim that my blInd spots have to be everyone else’s, then I have yet another blind spot (that of hubris) to combat! In The Clark – Van Til Debate, the banter that, “I don’t understand this, so neither can YOU!” is silly at best and sinful at worst. And terribly tiresome.

    “in fact our numbers are growing and soon… ”
    This means that
    (1) R.S. Clark’s blocked list is also growing, and,
    (2) only the faithful may post @ his blog[s].

    Scott Clark reads history and everything else through the lens Murray provided in his anemic defense of the “free offer.” Even the most seemingly irrelevant passages of Scripture magically become proof-texts for the WMO and Scott offers up assertions without the slightest argument to support his conclusions. His conclusions are just assumed. I think he’s been preaching to the choir and rooms full of submissive and subservient WSC students for so long that he can’t see anything except through his stained sunglasses. He complains that his opponents haven’t read and carefully considered what he’s written, when the fact is he just systematically ignores any arguments that undermines his own.

    He thus proves to consistently assume, loudly affirm & obnoxiously assert the consequent.

    Ron – Your writing and thinking at times are so clear and biblical. (Thanks for ably answering RSC.) Yet you still are a theonomist? As Eric said, “the staff at WSC is excellent on JBFA and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, especially Mike Horton.”

    Like all of us, they get some stuff wrong, but the deadly anti-gospel poison of Recons Shepherd, Sandlin & Co. is far worse, consistently obscuring Christ’s true glory and exchanging it for a mess of mythical postmillennial pottage. JBFA is trampled underfoot by theonomy. Just saying.

  25. Sean Gerety Says:

    I agree and that is really the problem with men like Scott. Their aprioi is the belief that Scripture presents to the mind irreconcilable “truths” that we are to accept if we’re to think in submission to Scripture. As I told someone today, the WMO issue is just a symptom of a deeper issue and that’s why the Clark/Van Til controversy is still being fought today – even over issues like the WMO. Of course, their side is majority opinion. Thankfully truth is never arrived at by counting heads.

    This is why Vantillianism is so crippling and intellectually stultifying. Normally, when someone is faced with a contradiction when studying Scripture, or any book for that matter, that is usually a clue to go back and recheck the author’s meaning to make sure you’ve read them correctly. Perhaps you’ve missed something, read the author too quickly, or were just sloppy. I mean, you want to make sure you’ve done your homework before you charge an author, any author, with contradicting himself. After all, that’s just embarrassing.

    I know when people have charged me with contradicting myself in something I’ve written even on this blog, I find it more than a little embarrassing when it turns out that they’re right. I will even tend to beat myself up in order to correct my error even if it’s only to clarify what I meant so that even the appearance of a contradiction vanishes. Further, I try to not make that mistake again.

    But, what these men are saying, insisting on even, is that God’s holy Word is contradictory. They claim that God’s word teaches that God desires the salvation of those they know Christ’s cross work didn’t atone for. They know Christ died for only those given to Him by the Father. They believe in the “L” of TULIP, but they also maintain that God desires the fulfillment of precisely that which He did not decree. I suspect they even recognize that their doctrinal formulation even imputes irrationality to God. Murray admits in his defense of the free offer that his exegesis causes “tension” in the Christian system. The way these men get around it is by simply proclaiming that for God there are no contradictions. What must remain contradictory in our minds as we read the Scriptures we are assured they are somehow reconciled in the mind of God.

    Therefore, when someone accuses me in the future of contradicting myself, I will simply say; “For you what I wrote appears to be contradictory, but for Sean there are no contradictions.” Let’s see how far that gets me. :)

  26. justbybelief Says:

    All,

    Of course, everyone has blind spots and not being fully sanctified (having blind spots) is sin; however, in my mind the issue here is not THAT someone has blind spots but whether when confronted with it/them do they manifest an attitude of humility or arrogance.

    and exchanging it for a mess of mythical postmillennial pottage.

    Hugh, I know this is a serious matter but that statement made me LMAO.

  27. Ron Says:

    Hugh,

    Thanks for the encouraging word.

    Yes, I am a theonomist, properly understood. All that means is that I think civil magistrates should justify their laws with Scripture. I know no other way of justifying these questions:

    1. Which sins ought government to punish?
    2. What should those sanctions be?
    3. How can we justify 1 and 2 apart from Scripture?

    In a word, as soon as the Christian tries to justify a civil law with Scripture, he too is behaving like a theonomist. It’s an epistemological matter that pertains to public ethics.

    This does not mean that the church – qua church, is to be active in government. That task falls upon Christian individuals at their discretion working within the biblical principles of Christian liberty. Moreover, theonomy has no eschatological bent. Theonomy is not concerned with whether such laws will be enacted but rather with the question of should such laws be enacted.

  28. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Eric, for reading & kindly commenting.

  29. justbybelief Says:

    “`For you what I wrote appears to be contradictory, but for Sean there are no contradictions.’ Let’s see how far that gets me.”

    You could join Obama’s entourage; you’d fit right in. There, the pay is good, benefits better, and vacations, out of this world…literally, though, you’ll be missed in the rational world.

  30. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    Thanks. More basically, why is it your business – as a ruling elder in Christ’s church – to concern yourself with questions 1 & 2?

    Why do you feel the need “try to justify a civil law with [or without] Scripture”?

    I understand that theonomy narrowly understood is concerned with what laws and why, but the eschatological element is vital in Reconstructionism.

    Theonomy may have “no eschatological bent,” but the vast majority of learned, pedantic, and zealous theonomists certainly have or do have such a bent.

    If we need to chat offline, I’m @ hughmc5 AT hotmail.com

    Again, thank you!

  31. Ron Says:

    JBFA is trampled underfoot by theonomy. Just saying.

    Hugh,

    How so? Please be extremely precise with your premises.

  32. Ron Says:

    Thanks. More basically, why is it your business – as a ruling elder in Christ’s church – to concern yourself with questions 1 & 2?

    Hugh,

    The reason I concern myself (as a Christian) with those two questions is because it is part of the whole counsel of God. My concern as an elder has to do with the Westminster standards on the matter.

    Why do you feel the need “try to justify a civil law with [or without] Scripture”?

    Again, it’s about thinking Christ’s thoughts after him and the word of God applying to all of life.

    I understand that theonomy narrowly understood is concerned with what laws and why, but the eschatological element is vital in Reconstructionism.

    Not really. One can be postmillennial and not a Reconstructionist, just as one can be a Reconstructionist but not think that things will end up rosy in the end.

    Theonomy may have “no eschatological bent,” but the vast majority of learned, pedantic, and zealous theonomists certainly have or do have such a bent.

    Yes, and most theonomists are Trinitarian. :)

    Happy to chat off line. I’ll shoot you an email so you’ll have mine.

  33. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    Thank you. I wrote hastily.

    Theonomists and Reconstructionists (I question whether these really differ in definition) “trample” the gospel by their obsession with asking and answering the questions you raised on January 1, 2014 at 1:30 pm.

    Many are Federal Visionaries (we could wish Greg Bahnsen were alive to answer the crypto-papists, or that John Frame would critique his Shepherdite pals).

    As you know, God’s Hammer and Greenbaggins have well detailed the Federal Visionaries’ madness, and I see necessary connections between the FV and theonomy. Both are obsessed with law and law-keeping. Not of course in outright denial of JBFA, but in their diminution of the latter as they cry up God’s law.

    I think of the applicability of 1st Timothy 1:5ff ~
    Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
    6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
    7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
    8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
    9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
    10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
    11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

  34. justbybelief Says:

    Hugh,

    Why do you feel the need “try to justify a civil law with [or without] Scripture”?

    I’ve never claimed to be a theonomist, and I know this is a little off topic and I wasn’t asked the question but please bear with me for one interjection and then I’ll be silent on the matter.

    I think it could categorized under love for one’s neighbor.

    Eric

  35. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron: You claim that God’s counsel/ Christ’s thoughts, are concerned with asking and answering,

    1. Which sins ought government to punish?
    2. What should those sanctions be?

    { I must leave off the question whether the Westminster standards are so concerned. }

    Eric: You think that these are necessitated by love for one’s neighbor?

    Lots to ponder and debate, but my day is fast hurrying away from me, and I must also ask that we take this up via email.

    Thanks,
    Hugh
    hughmc5 AT hotmail.com

  36. Ron Says:

    Theonomists and Reconstructionists (I question whether these really differ in definition) “trample” the gospel by their obsession with asking and answering the questions you raised on January 1, 2014 at 1:30 pm.

    Hugh,

    If one is not inclined to draw a distinction between theonomy and reconstruction, it’s not likely he’ll appreciate that a so called “obsession” with a theological position does not logically imply defect with the position. It can only imply, at best, defect with those who obsess over the position, which is not the same thing as implying defect with all who hold to the position. That’s a matter of pure logic, not theology.

  37. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, if you want to discuss theonomy and reconstructionism, why don’t you take Ron up on his offer and discuss it off list. I really want to keep this thread focused on the WMO and RS Clark’s tepid defense of it. Thanks.

  38. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    I share in that. You are right.

    We’ve swapped emails.

  39. Pht Says:

    … Ironic. For other reasons, I have been listening to JW Robbin’s audio files about what the church is, and in one of them it’s mentioned that while America hasn’t suffered much (relative to other countries) under persecution and tribulation, we’ve been suffering under error… and one could maybe make a case that this goes back to the very earliest days, IE princeton being founded because harvard was considered to have already gone to the wolves.

    I Suspect that WS Cali was founded … because WS philly had gone to the wolves? I wonder if people like RS Clark (who I am in NO way calling a wolf) realize that their poor exegesis is what opens the gate for the wolves to come in?

    Arminius (I am also not saying RSC is as bad as arminius was) opened the gate for the more virulent forms of semi and full pelagianism that the institutional church is in such bondage to. From what I know, Arminius would probably be horrified at things like open theism – and yet he lifted the tent flap for it in his own way (and I only mean to compare RSC to arminius in that both are putting forth teachings that “lift the tent flap”).

  40. Hugh McCann Says:

    Amen to Sean &

    Ditto to Ron.

  41. justbybelief Says:

    Amen, Pht. Gradualism is perilous because the long-term danger of a ‘miniscule’ divergence in doctrine may not be immediately evident to the most sound of believers.

    I wonder if this is not what the apostle refered to as ‘leaven’ saying, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.”

    Even John Robbin, I think, believed that the Van Tillianism of WSC might possibly be its downfall. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Eric

  42. Amplitudo Says:

    “Thankfully, I first read men like John Owen instead of John Murray or my bible would be long lost in the city dump by now. ”

    It is statements like this that cause others to look down on us as “rationalists,” and it grieves my heart to read it.

  43. Sean Gerety Says:

    Don’t know why it would grieve your heart? It’s the truth. Even as a Reformed newbie I could recognize a contradiction when I saw one. Further, I was convinced that Arminianism (free will) was false and I couldn’t understand why these ersatz-Reformed theologians were embracing Arminanism with one hand and Reformed soteriology (election and a denial of free will) on the other – even claiming both positions were true!

    Nonsense is nonsense and if the Scriptures teach nonsense then they ought not be believed. Thankfully, Murray was wrong in his exegesis of critical passages (basically common interpretations of Arminian prooftexts) and Reformed guys like Owen, Clark, Hoeksema were right.

    Besides, these men look down on us as “rationalists” not because they think we believe in “the autonomy of the human intellect” (although some do make this claim). Rather, they call us that because we believe there is a point of coincidence between the Divine mind and human minds as they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit to believe and understand the truth that God has literally revealed in Scripture – and not just an analogy of it.

    So, let not your heart be troubled, they would call us “rationalist” regardless of what I said. Any epistemology that is not Van Til’s is “rationalistic.” It’s their way not having to defend their positions through sound arguments from Scripture just like Scott Clark has done. Name calling is so much easier.

  44. justbybelief Says:

    it grieves my heart to read it

    Please define ‘heart.’

  45. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    There are many non-Van Tillians that hold to antinomy. Packer for instance believed that human responsibility and the divine decree were apparent contradictions; yet he took them on faith because he believed the Bible teaches both. Obviously we would argue that one should not embrace seemingly contradictory premises if for no other reason that they might actually be contradictory(!), which would mean the person has misunderstood Scripture. (From a purely epistemic consideration, I don’t think one can know a doctrine that truly looks contradictory to him.) Moreover, we shouldn’t pit faith against knowledge this way.

    Indeed, to hold to premises that are believed to look contradictory so that they must be taken on “faith”… “because God says so” is, of course, hazardous. If the Bible is full of doctrines that truly appear contradictory, then how can we begin to reject actual false doctrine that, also, appears contradictory? One would not be able to distinguish real contradictions from apparent ones. No, we must maintain that if we believe Scripture teaches two premises that appear contradictory (on the surface), then we should think hard about those seemingly competing tenets until such time they do not appear mutually exclusive; or else we must abandon one, or both, of the competing claims. That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be left with mystery; we just wouldn’t be left with believing things that we think look contradictory. This is usually when the one who is committed to paradox says, “We’re only to believe the contradictory looking doctrines that God teaches.”

    With that said, I wouldn’t make this a Clark vs. Van Til matter if for no other reason than the ultimate source of the problem is typically irrelevant with respect to the person having the problem. In this particular case, I don’t think one can index such confusion to Van Til, especially when the confusion comes from Escondido. Escondido hardly has a Van Til legacy, unlike Glenside, Pa.

    There’s also a tactical reason I think we do well to avoid indexing confusion to a person or a legacy. Some might actually dismiss the weight of an argument if they think they’re position has a tradition behind it.They’re attitude would become one of being in good company. That’s my main reason for simply zeroing in on the “charlie horse between the ears” without trying to index the confusion to a particular legacy or person.

    Nuff said!

  46. Sean Gerety Says:

    There are many non-Van Tillians that hold to antinomy. Packer for instance believed that human responsibility and the divine decree were apparent contradictions; yet he took them on faith because he believed the Bible teaches both.

    I know and in the case of Packer and others “it’s a mystery” was merely an attempt to mask their ignorance of a possible solution. While not as admirable as just saying “I don’t know,” at least it wasn’t an assertion encased in an entire epistemological framework where even believing there is a univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s — even as He has revealed His mind to us in Scripture — is “a form of rationalism.” This is a charge that rests at Van Til’s feet and one I’m more than happy to keep placing there.

    Also, I understand for tactical reasons why you don’t want to make this into a Clark/VT issue, but it is. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t care less that Scott believes in an irrational doctrine based on atrocious and basically Arminian exegesis of key verses. Heck, even Spurgeon thought 2 Tim 2:4 was universally applicable, recognized the contradiction his interpretation raised, and claimed we should accept these truths even if the pieces didn’t fit. The difference between these men and men like Scott is that they didn’t wrap their error in an entire theory of Scripture and truth that is positively hostile to both. They might not have seen a solution, but they didn’t believe that even proposing one was sin and “un-Reformed.” Scott does.

    I mean, he’s not stupid, he has to recognize that there are better exegetical alternatives to his and Murray’s lazy reading of 2 Peter 3:9 that doesn’t end in a contradiction. The problem is he knows if he admits it then the entire edifice on which he based his entire theology will crumble. He could sacrifice VT when it came to something as untenable as God being both 1 person and 3 persons (many Vantillians won’t even go this far), but to surrender on questions like the WMO or God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility would expose his entire epistemology as the fraud it is. There is a lot more at stake here than just the incoherence of the WMO. We’re talking about careers and an entire culture that pervades P&R churches and seminaries.

    Besides, I’ve spent years adhering to your tactical position and for the reasons you’ve gave. But if you want to kill a snake you cut its head off. I don’t have time to keep nipping at the tail.

  47. Pht Says:

    Ron Says:

    January 3, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Sean,

    There are many non-Van Tillians that hold to antinomy. Packer for instance believed that human responsibility and the divine decree were apparent contradictions…

    Is it just my experience alone that most people wouldn’t know a logical contradiction from “not a logical contradiction” if it jumped up and smashed their big toe with a hammer?

    I was pretty bad about it myself – at this point I’d like to think I at least know enough about what is and isn’t a logical contradiction to know … when I don’t know.

    Do … ANY of the higher schools or courses for theologians or pastors require logic classes anymore? Did they ever? I am beginning to suspect this hasn’t been a requirement since possibly, what, the 17th century?

    It is the shame of the church that so much error seems to stem from the fact that we not only don’t know how to read – we’re ignorant of our ignorance!

    My 2c on the CVT thing; It has been my experience that virtually everywhere I go inside of the reformed community, especially online, that CVT is taken to be a good authority figure, at the very least – so while CVT obviously isn’t responsible for every shred of irrationality in the reformed church, he bears, currently, the lion’s share in my opinion.

    Beyond that, I blame adam for eating that fruit. It’s his fault we’re in this mess of irrationality!

  48. Ron Says:

    Great follow-up posts. I probably won’t say much when I respond but I want to be thoughtful so I’ll refrain. For now let me just say, I do feel the pain and I do see a justification for Sean’s approach. It might even be the best approach. This glorying in irrationalism has to stop.

  49. Hugh McCann Says:

    I’m not sure what exactly you’re sating, “Amplitudo” on January 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm with:

    “Thankfully, I first read men like John Owen instead of John Murray or my bible would be long lost in the city dump by now.”

    It is statements like this that cause others to look down on us as “rationalists,” and it grieves my heart to read it.

    I get that the first is a quote of Sean’s, & his point is clear.

    Amplitudo, are you grieving because Sean said it?

    Or, b/c he is misconstrued as being rationalistic (and hence, looked down upon) by others?

    Or b/c of something else?

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  50. Hugh McCann Says:

    Years ago, I heard J.I. Packer unpack Turretin about the dual-wills of God thing. God loving reprobates, and wanting the non-elect saved, etc.

    Irrationalism is the root of Van Tillianism, not the other way around.

    We ALL need to fight and guard against it!

  51. justbybelief Says:

    Aren’t ‘Irrationalism’ and ‘Van Tillianism’ in the thesaurus. :-)

  52. LJ Says:

    Oh, Hugh! Talk about a blind spot!😉

    >Ron – Your writing and thinking at times are so clear and biblical. (Thanks for ably answering RSC.) Yet you still are a theonomist? As Eric said, “the staff at WSC is excellent on JBFA and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, especially Mike Horton.”<

    Happy New Year,

    LJ

  53. LJ Says:

    Thank you, Ron, for once again clarifying for our dear brother Hugh what “… theonomist, properly understood …” means.

    >Hugh,

    Thanks for the encouraging word.

    Yes, I am a theonomist, properly understood. All that means is that I think civil magistrates should justify their laws with Scripture. I know no other way of justifying these questions:

    1. Which sins ought government to punish?
    2. What should those sanctions be?
    3. How can we justify 1 and 2 apart from Scripture?

    In a word, as soon as the Christian tries to justify a civil law with Scripture, he too is behaving like a theonomist. It’s an epistemological matter that pertains to public ethics.

    This does not mean that the church – qua church, is to be active in government. That task falls upon Christian individuals at their discretion working within the biblical principles of Christian liberty. Moreover, theonomy has no eschatological bent. Theonomy is not concerned with whether such laws will be enacted but rather with the question of should such laws be enacted.<

  54. LJ Says:

    @ Sean: “I mean, he’s not stupid, he has to recognize that there are better exegetical alternatives to his and Murray’s lazy reading of 2 Peter 3:9 that doesn’t end in a contradiction. The problem is he knows if he admits it then the entire edifice on which he based his entire theology will crumble. He could sacrifice VT when it came to something as untenable as God being both 1 person and 3 persons (many Vantillians won’t even go this far), but to surrender on questions like the WMO or God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility would expose his entire epistemology as the fraud it is. There is a lot more at stake here than just the incoherence of the WMO. We’re talking about careers and an entire culture that pervades P&R churches and seminaries.”

    Once again, Sean, a very clear statement that I completely agree with. RSC is between an edifice and a hard spot. The Van Tilian mindset, with the concomitant FOG/WMO/CommonGrace schemes, so pervades P&R churches and seminaries that it is considered orthodoxy.

    I for one very much appreciate your keeping this battle for epistemological sanity alive.

    LJ

  55. Logan Almy Says:

    I don’t understand how Murray’s exegesis of 1 Tim 2:4 requires “a theology of contradiction”. Wouldn’t proponents of Murray’s view distinguish between God’s revealed will and his sovereign will? Setting aside the fact that one might reject the application of that distinction to those texts, wouldn’t the fact that they make that distinction reveal that they are not affirming a contradiction in their system of doctrine? If they had a theology of contradiction, why not just affirm the contradiction as a mystery without making the distinction? Help me understand.

  56. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Logan. I don’t recall Murray discussing 1 Tim 2:4 in his defense of the “free offer.” Regardless, and to your point about God’s revealed will and sovereign (or decretive) will, that is precisely what Murray does say:

    … God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious …

    So, you’re right, this is how WMO defenders get away without having to appear as if they were affirming a blatant contradiction. However, besides being an admission that God has revealed something that is at odds with what He has decreed and thereby imputing irrationality to God, the question, as I’ve stated above, is how do they arrive at a desire to save the non-elect from the command that all who hear the Gospel ought to believe?

    The other problem is God’s expressing this “ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed to come to pass” is supposed to be found in verses like 2 Peter 3:9 which says no such thing. The verse does speak about God desiring the salvation of the elect and Christ not returning before all them come to saving faith, but it doesn’t support Murray’s (or R.S. Clark’s) thesis. So the WMO fails on exegetical grounds.

    It fails on other grounds too. I think the main error is, and is why I cite Luther above, is that the defenders of the WMO smuggle in an indicative meaning from something written in the imperative as Murray does right at the outset as you can see here: “This implication is that in the free offer there is expressed not simply the bare preceptive will of God but the disposition of lovingkindness on the part of God pointing to the salvation to be gained through compliance with the overtures of gospel grace.” They read in a “disposition of lovingkindness” toward the reprobate and assert that the command that all who hear believe is “not simply the bare preceptive will of God.” Murray begs the question. Remember, the question is not does God desire the elect to be saved through the preaching of the Gospel, God says he does, but rather the non-elect.

    Frankly, the Arminianism of the WMO is exemplified by Murray’s qualifying the idea of “desire” arguing “It is not desire of their salvation irrespective of repentance and faith.” This is right in his introduction. But as Gordon Clark argues above; “Repentance is a gift of God, and if God willed to, he would give everyone repentance. But obviously he does not.” So, to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate, i.e., those whom God has decreed not to bestow the gift of repentance, is to use the word “desire” in a way that Murray tells us we shouldn’t. How ironic is that!

    Murray’s defense of the “free offer” is self-refuting before it even begins, but you won’t learn that from a Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California. :)

  57. Logan Almy Says:

    You are right–Murray doesn’t address 1 Tim 2:4 in his writing on the free offer. I double checked. I’m not sure why I thought that except that it is often lumped in there with 2 Pet 3:9. Regardless, I’m still struggling to understand how the “theology of contradiction” comes into play. I suppose my question is this. We know that God commands sinners to do things (revealed will) that he has not decreed that they will do (sovereign will). I think of Adam’s sin or Christ’s crucifixion as examples. So is the problem with saying that he ‘desires’ all sinners without exception to be saved rather than that he ‘commands’ them to repent and believe? Why couldn’t those who side with Murray on this one just say that God ‘desires’ with respect to his revealed will that all be saved, but he does not ‘desire’ it with respect to his sovereign will? I recognize that there is still the need for the proof texts, which I cannot think of one that proves God’s desire to save all without exception, but on a logical level is this really contradictory? We agree that God didn’t desire Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in the sense that he commanded him not to do it, but we say that God did desire it in the ultimate sense of his sovereign decree for human history, right? To put it another way, what makes the appeal to this distinction right in one place and wrong in another? I would say: exegesis. It seems that you would say: exegesis and logic. I am struggling with seeing the logical problem. Hope that makes sense. . .

  58. theoldadam Says:

    Some things about God are just ‘above’ us. Things do not line up (always) with our reason.

    God loves the whole world…died for the whole world…forgave the whole world (even those who had him nailed to the Cross)…but not all will go to Heaven.

    “Faith comes by hearing…”

    But not all will hear and come to a living faith. Why not? That is a question that we cannot answer with the information that we currently have.

  59. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sadly, still IN “the old Adam,” apparently…?

  60. Steve M Says:

    theoldadam: “Some things about God are just ‘above’ us”

    Some are, but the ones you name are the result of sloppy exegesis. How is it you know what “we” cannot answer. Why don’t you try speaking for yourself. Don’t you think it is a bit arrogant to claim to know what other people can or cannot answer with the available information?

  61. justbybelief Says:

    “Some things about God are just ‘above’ us. Things do not line up (always) with our reason.”

    Yes, but can this be said about something revealed. If revelation is mystery we’re all still in a world of hurt.

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m still struggling to understand how the “theology of contradiction” comes into play. I suppose my question is this. We know that God commands sinners to do things (revealed will) that he has not decreed that they will do (sovereign will). I think of Adam’s sin or Christ’s crucifixion as examples. So is the problem with saying that he ‘desires’ all sinners without exception to be saved rather than that he ‘commands’ them to repent and believe?

    Words mean something, right? The word “desire” means to have a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Leaving the idea of strong feelings aside, God doesn’t wish or long for the salvation of those he decreed not to save. Even leaving aside the question of is it contradictory for God to wish for that which He alone can accomplish, the WMO paints God Almighty as God Impotent. That’s the God of the Arminian. A God desiring the salvation of all but unable to do all He desires. Arminians get around this effeminate and weak conception of a less-than-sovereign-God by asserting the sovereignty of man who alone is the ultimate determiner of his eternal destiny.

    Calvinists, if they’re even deserving of the name, don’t have this luxury. For a man to be saved it is God alone who must save him. There are no other alternatives. Therefore it follows necessarily that if God desired the salvation of all men then all men would be saved. Man’s will isn’t free. It is, as Luther said, in bondage to sin and death apart from the saving mercy of God alone. But men like Murray, Van Til, R.S. Clark tell us that the God of Scripture desires the fulfillment of that which He has not decreed. That’s not the God of the Bible.

    Consequently, a Calvinist wouldn’t say that God did not “desire” the Fall or the Crucifixion, would he? You seem to be saying he would (in fact you do say that below). We know God decreed the Fall and the Crucifixion because the God of Scripture determines “whatsoever comes to pass,” right? He accomplishes all His good pleasure, right? It’s not a secret. Concerning the murder of God’s only Son we know that God was “pleased” to crush Him. You wouldn’t say God was pleased and not pleased to crush the Son on account of our sin, would you? You wouldn’t paint God as being double minded would you? But that’s exactly what the WMO men do.

    Why couldn’t those who side with Murray on this one just say that God ‘desires’ with respect to his revealed will that all be saved,

    They do say exactly that, but where’s the proof? Where in God’s revealed will does He say that? That is precisely why I challenged Clark to defend the WMO exegetically and to start with 2 Peter 3:9. Murray tells us this verse supports the thesis that God wills all be saved, but that is demonstrably false. Murray’s defense of the “free offer” fails on every front and there have been far superior exegesis of critical passages historically that doesn’t end up imputing irrationality to God and painting the God of Scripture as an double-minded impotent fool. I think the WMO is blasphemous and if men like Clark don’t think it is, let them defend their doctrine from the Scriptures. FWIW I’m convinced they cannot, which is why Clark tries to dazzle his readers with Van Til’s distorted ectype/archtype distinction, nonsensical epistemological nuances, and a view of Reformed history that never existed. Hypocritically he paints himself as the standard bearer of Reformed confessionalism (see how often he refers people to his book), yet he cannot even defend his doctrine from the confessions – any of them.

    I recognize that there is still the need for the proof texts, which I cannot think of one that proves God’s desire to save all without exception, but on a logical level is this really contradictory?

    If you can’t demonstrate the desire for the fulfillment of that which God has not decreed to fulfill, then to say that God desires the salvation of all according to his preceptive will, but doesn’t desire the salvation of all according to his decretive will is to advance a distinction without meaning.

    We agree that God didn’t desire Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in the sense that he commanded him not to do it, but we say that God did desire it in the ultimate sense of his sovereign decree for human history, right?

    I don’t. I don’t try to infer anything from God commands because it’s logically impossible to do so. However, I can infer from verses like Genesis 3:22 that God desired the Fall in order to accomplish all of His sovereign purposes and so that Jesus would be the first born of many brethren. Genesis 3:22 wasn’t a lament. God’s commands tell us what we ought to do. It tells us nothing about what God desires to do or what He desires for us to do. God doesn’t wish for anything. The God of Scripture does all of His good pleasure on heaven and on earth. From our side we can’t infer from the command that we ought to do something that we therefore have the ability to do as we ought, right? Isn’t that the logical fallacy of Pelagianism? Similarly, from God’s side we can’t infer a desire for the accomplishment of some end from His command that we do this or that. But that’s exactly what the WMO men do.

  63. Ron Says:

    Logan,

    Your use of “revealed will” could be causing your problems. Why not use “revealed commands” or “revealed precepts?” Once you employ the notion of “will” you leave yourself open to massive equivocation and unfounded assumptions regarding competing desires.

    By the way, didn’t Jesus call Peter “Satan” when Peter wanted to stop an unlawful act?

  64. justbybelief Says:

    “Clark tries to dazzle his readers with Van Til’s distorted ectype/archtype distinction”

    LMAO, Sean.

    Reminds of, “Hey Rocky watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.” To which Rocky replies, “Bullwinkle, that trick never works.”

  65. Sean Gerety Says:

    Don’t get me wrong, there is a biblical ectype/archtype (Creator/creature) distinction, just not as Scott Clark or CVT teach it.

  66. Logan Almy Says:

    Sean,

    That is helpful. Thank you. I see the problem with using the word ‘desire’ in the way that I have. I also see the logical problem of the illegitimate inference.

    RSC shared some resources on his blog, and you mentioned a few (Owen, Clark) in your post. In your opinion, what are the best resources on this subject? What are the resources that you think get it wrong? I would like to read some more on this.

  67. Hugh McCann Says:

    Eric, I never realized that Rocky the squirrel was a rationalist.

  68. Hugh McCann Says:

    Logan – check out The Clark Van TIl Debate by Herman Hoeksema, published by the Trinity Foundation.

    Sean also has it on the banner to our right —>
    on the Hammer home page.

  69. Hugh McCann Says:

    Oops – The Clark – Van Til Controversy is the actual title.

    Highlights therefrom: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=220

  70. Sean Gerety Says:

    Logan- what Hugh said, plus I thought Ray Blacketer’s piece was good: http://www.prca.org/articles/ctjblack.html

    Trinity Reviews over the years have dealt with the WMO. The Protestant Reformed Church has tons of articles on the subject as Herman Hoeksema and others were tossed out of the CRC due to the their opposition to the WMO.

    One of the best pieces I’ve read on the topic was by Matthew Winzer: http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/murray-free-offer-review.htm

    Then there is John Gill works and Arthur Pink’s The Sovereignty of God (don’t get the Banner of Truth edition because they expunged a lot things in it that didn’t comport with the WMO after Pink passed).

  71. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, Yes, Winzer’s is very good.

    Hadn’t recalled Blacketer’s piece, so thanks for the link!

    RS Clark should interact with the latter, as it has so much (Dutch) Reformed about it.

  72. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Murray prefigured Rumsfeld.

    The former gave us “the unwilled will of God” with his idiotic quote:

    … God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious …

    So, there’s an unwilled will… :(

    Or, to riff on The Man of La Mancha: “To Decree the Inscrutable Decree.”

  73. justbybelief Says:

    “Eric, I never realized that Rocky the squirrel was a rationalist.”

    I think Rocky kept our main hero from flights of fancy much of the time.

  74. Pht Says:

    Logan. The below is not an attack on you. You merely lit the kindling that others have built up (mostly people arguing about the extent of God’s atonement); I am “riffing off of” your posts; from your further replies you give evidence of truly wanting to learn – which, if it is really true of you, is a God-given Gift, something to give God the glory for. I hope and pray that you (and I, and all of us) seek to be led by God into all truth, in humility, under the authority of his revealed word to us.

    Logan Almy Says:

    January 7, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I don’t understand how Murray’s exegesis of 1 Tim 2:4 requires “a theology of contradiction”. Wouldn’t proponents of Murray’s view distinguish between God’s revealed will and his sovereign will? Setting aside the fact that one might reject the application of that distinction to those texts, wouldn’t the fact that they make that distinction reveal that they are not affirming a contradiction in their system of doctrine? If they had a theology of contradiction, why not just affirm the contradiction as a mystery without making the distinction? Help me understand.

    It is my opinion that christians should just drop and disown the whole language of “god’s two wills.” It is unhelpful and, to the best of my knowledge, unbiblical. It should only be explained so that new christians can properly understand it’s past usage. The language has been utterly vitiated and rendered into a mill-stone that, over time, will be used to pull people down through heterodoxy and into heresy.

    God does not have two wills. He only has ONE will and has only revealed part of it to us. Furthermore, none of his other attributes/part of his nature are at conflict with his will or each other.

    —-

    …God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious …

    To the idea that this is somehow properly made right or properly understood by the word “desire” in the above statement to be … “not (a) desire of their salvation irrespective of repentance and faith.” … place the statements right next to each other on paper. They are mutually exclusive. It is impossible to say both together are true and be saying anything. Affirm that both of these are true and you are saying nothing at all.

    God is very clear in his word – he does everything he wants to do/desires to do/pleases to do. Meaning he can’t will to do something and not do it. This alone kills the whole unbiblical and thus ungodly idea of the free offer of the gospel (go read the gospel “offers” – they aren’t offers – they’re commands to people that they should believe the gospel). Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, nowhere does God say that any other part of his nature/attributes are in disharmony with his will/desire.

    God has made the subject of his will/desire/good pleasure (these all refer to the same meaning) clear as a bell on this topic for us:

    Psalms 115:3
    Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

    Psalms 135:6
    Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

    Job 23:13
    But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does.

    Ephesians 1:11
    In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

    Daniel 4:35
    … all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, What have you done?

    Isaiah 46:10
    …declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,

    Proverbs 19:21
    Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

    Isaiah 46:9-11
    … for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

    Psalms 33:10-11
    The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

    Isaiah 41:26
    Who declared it from the beginning, that we might know, and beforehand, that we might say, He is right? There was none who declared it, none who proclaimed, none who heard your words.

    Proverbs 16:9
    The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

    God is crystal clear here – he can not want to do something he can’t do.

    God, who all the while was showing us unmerited mercy, also showed that he would do so in accordance with his justice…

    Romans 3:26
    …It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    God even tells us why he commands us to give the gospel to those who are predestined to eternal just punishment in hell:

    Matthew 11:25-27 (cf luke 10:21-22)
    At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will (or “for such pleased you). All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

    … and the proper meaning of the verses above, when combined with the meaning of this verse (and others like it) that God did not will to give saving belief to those predestined to eternal just punishment in hell for their sins. This verse (and CF John Ch.6, etc for reinforcement on this topic) clearly says that God did hide God’s gospel from the reprobate…

    (ps, reprobate = those who WILL go to hell. God can’t save the reprobate, because the reprobate, by definition, are those whom God has willed to show his justice through in justly punishing their sins… let’s keep our language straight on this topic Since when did the word reprobate refer to christians before they were regenerated? *Pokes Ron*)

    It is so simple:

    God tells us:

    He does everything he wills to do

    He CAN do everything he wills to do

    Nobody can stop God from doing his will

    Everything he does is done according to his will

    Gold also tells us:

    He (God) hid his truth from the reprobate so that they would not believe and be saved

    Therefore:

    God did not will to save the reprobate.

    In smaller form:

    God does everything according to his will.

    God says he doesn’t save the reprobate.

    Therefore, God didn’t will to save the reprobate.

    I expect some will play the word game of “but this is a “does not,” not a “does” – which is stupid. “Does not,” just like “does,” is just a form of doing … – and not just grammatically. I wish more people would be mature enough and honest enough to just admit that they don’t like these things, because it offends their way of thinking and therefore their feelings.

    God is not “Minnesota nice” – he is not tame, he can not be put in a box erected by our sensibilities. God is only limited by his nature. Eternal punishment in hell isn’t because someone ate a bad piece of pizza that gave them stomach knots that put them in a bad mood and distracted them the day they were “freely offered” the gospel… it is because God, who is more important than US … desires to show his just and righteous wrath… and to do so in a way that magnifies the glory of his grace.

    For the rest of the argument, I will merely quote God, (through paul):

    Romans 9:22
    You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

    But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump done vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    You aren’t more important than God.

    I am not more important than God.

    Our feelings aren’t more important than God.

    To give the glory to God in EVERYTHING, including ALL of his being (or attributes, as we say it) is THE most important thing for us to do:

    “Question 1: What is the chief end of man?”
    “Answer 1: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”

    … has the right of it.

    Logan Almy Says:

    January 7, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    We agree that God didn’t desire Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in the sense that he commanded him not to do it, but we say that God did desire it in the ultimate sense of his sovereign decree for human history, right? To put it another way, what makes the appeal to this distinction right in one place and wrong in another? I would say: exegesis. It seems that you would say: exegesis and logic. I am struggling with seeing the logical problem.

    God desired Adam to eat the fruit. See above bible verses.

    This does NOT set up a contradiction with the fact of God’s stated wrath against those who do what he has told them to not do. God does not only take the glory in his mercy. When you say that, in some non-ultimate sense, God desired that adam NOT eat the fruit – this non-ultimate “desire” you speak of is not and can not be the same type of thing as what God says is his “ultimate” desire. Because of this, we should NOT use the same word “desire” to speak of these two things. This is the same thing as saying God has “a hidden will and a revealed will” or a “revealed will and a sovereign will” … almost hopelessly confusing language. God does not contradict himself. God IS sound thinking. He could not be truth if he were not.

    Sean Gerety Says:

    January 8, 2014 at 10:41 am

    … I don’t try to infer anything from God commands because it’s logically impossible to do so. …

    AMEN.

    Really, to me, this just falls under the “westerners can’t read for beans” problem I mentioned earlier. In order to read well, one has to be forced to be godly(read, logically) minded. The above texts, with prayer and deep consideration, would, I hope, make it rather painful for RSC (and other regenerate people) to hold to the free/well meant offer. Has RSC read these verses? I have no idea. It is entirely possible he has and God simply has not given understanding of them. Anyhow, I suspect much of this in our culture comes from either the habit of reading through the entire bible in a year (or three), or reading a book or any other section of the bible in a set amount of time, or other reading plans, or going first to commentators we trust, or leaning on our seminary or bible college teaching almost exclusively… all of which are not in and of themselves wrong nor evil… there is, quite often, much good to be derived from doing these things. However, in our western culture, these things seem in my opinion (take with a giant grain of salt please) to do very little to nothing to force us to truly comprehend what we have read, which is a shame, because we have such good topical cross-references, and free quality computer-backed bibles make reading these topical cross-reference so easy that we almost have no excuse to not do so, and a virtually endless well of space to store our notes as we read in our text-editors.

    God says:

    2 Timothy 2:7
    Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

    And:

    Proverbs 2:1-8
    My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.

    If we not only pray to God for wisdom, but also think deeply about what God has revealed, he will give us understanding.

    Maybe not right away, but he will. How much good could come of people occasionally breaking their reading plan or refreshing their learning or scholarship by reading one book of the bible, any book of the bible, with the express goal of deeply and fully comprehending what they’re reading, by praying over and thinking through the text of the book they are reading, and than after that checking all the topical cross references of the text. while swimming in a sea of prayer for wisdom and the humility to be under God’s word? Better yet, also while opening a text editor and distilling out what the texts actually say and their valid implications (as God reveals it to you) while doing so, so you have a reference point? I thank GOD for my pastor exegeting through biblical books… it is and can be PAINFULLY slow … but we LEARN!

    This post is long enough. I think I had better stop riffing and leave it to God.

    Apologies for the wall of text and somewhat dragging your thread off topic… :-|

  75. Hugh McCann Says:

    Pht et. al.,

    Just glanced @ your piece and look forward to it, but is a thwarted “decretive will” not unlike the mythical “common grace”?

    A mistaken misnomer that ultimately hinders more than it helps?

  76. Roger Says:

    Wouldn’t proponents of Murray’s view distinguish between God’s revealed will and his sovereign will? Setting aside the fact that one might reject the application of that distinction to those texts, wouldn’t the fact that they make that distinction reveal that they are not affirming a contradiction in their system of doctrine?

    The proponents of Murray’s view falsely posit a volitional quality to God’s perceptive will (“desiring” that the reprobates believe and be saved), which is blatantly contrary to His decretive will (“desiring” that the reprobates continue in unbelief and be damned). Even if such an irrational position were possible (making God somewhat schizophrenic, with conflicting desires and contrary wills), how would it benefit the reprobate in any way? God’s greater desire is always to “blind” and “harden” them so that “they cannot not believe” (John 12:39-40) the gospel. Is the notion that He also “desires” their salvation in a weaker and ineffectual sense somehow supposed to comfort them? I fail to see how. What a dishonoring and unbiblical view of God!

  77. Hugh McCann Says:

    But Roger, isn’t it important that we help them feel good about themselves?

    Then, they may respond to the offer too good to refuse.

    No, wait. That’s right, they can’t; they’re reprobate!

    Oops.

  78. Jon Says:

    Scripture seems to attest, though, to what we might term ‘common grace.’ Some say God draws all men to himself through prevenient grace and that it is something like God’s common grace. Perhaps they are the same, or perhaps prevenient grace is a variety of common grace.

  79. Jon Says:

    I was thinking the other day that all we really have are paradigms. We have a bunch of paradigms, none of which take into account everything Scripture offers. Yet some paradigms seem to fit better than others. Take your pick.

  80. Roger Says:

    Scripture seems to attest, though, to what we might term ‘common grace.’ Some say God draws all men to himself through prevenient grace and that it is something like God’s common grace. Perhaps they are the same, or perhaps prevenient grace is a variety of common grace.

    Jon, Scripture nowhere teaches that God graciously draws the non-elect (or reprobate) to Himself. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The Lord “blinds” and “hardens” the non-elect to the gospel message, “lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (John 12:40) This is neither “prevenient” nor “common” grace. It is an expression of God’s wrath against reprobate sinners.

    The Lord graciously “draws” only elect sinners to Himself for salvation. And when He does, the result is always the same:

    “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

    “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)


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